Archive for the ‘Ravens’ Category

Baltimore, GET UP!

January 13, 2012

Finishing up our series of pump up videos for the first home playoff game in five years, here’s one from the guys at B’More Get Up Gametime. Featuring cameos from famous Ravens fans like Captain Defense and the Purple Dame, it’s a bit of an oldie compared to the others (2009), but still a goodie.

Houston, you’re in the wrong place…at the right time.

Also, the generic/non-purple cheerleaders/dance team always crack me up.

Divisional Playoff Preview – Texans (11-6) @ Ravens (12-4)

January 12, 2012

The Houston Texans, fresh off their first playoff victory in franchise history – a 31-10 spanking of the Cincinnati Bengals – come to Baltimore for the second time this year hoping to earn a berth in the AFC Championship game. As I said several times this week, the Texans are to be commended for their first ever postseason win, and for doing it with a third string quarterback. Beating the Bengals, though, a team that hasn’t won a playoff game themselves since 1990 – twelve years before the Texans even existed – is one thing. Coming into M&T Bank Stadium and beating a postseason tested veteran group such as these Ravens? That’s another thing altogether.

Joe Flacco

Joe has been taking some heat this week for speaking out about all the heat he takes.

I’ll wait while you go read that again.

Back with me? Ok, good.

I don’t really care about all that extracurricular stuff; my feelings on our quarterback are well documented around these parts. You want to shut up the critics, Joe? Here’s your chance.

For all the handwringing that was done earlier this year about how the Ravens’ offense is inept against 4-3 defenses, I sure haven’t heard anybody citing the Texans’ 3-4 as a Ravens’ advantage coming into this game. While I was of the mind that it was a silly criticism at the time (and still am), the fact remains that three of the Ravens’ four losses this season (Tennessee, Jacksonville, Seattle) came against teams that employ a base 4-3 front. These were also teams that were able to get adequate pressure with their front four, something the Ravens’ offense severely struggled with.

Against 3-4 defenses, the Ravens were 8-1 (by my count, based off depth charts), with the only loss coming to San Diego – a game in which the opposing offense was the key factor, as opposed to the defense.

To take it a step further, Joe Flacco is now 2-0 against Wade Phillips’ 3-4, with the other victory coming in 2008 when Phillips was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. In the two games combined, Joe was 37/58 (64%) for 454 yards, with two total touchdowns (one passing, one rushing), one interception, and two fumbles lost. The good news is that, in addition to being able to move the ball fairly effectively through the air, Joe seems to have fixed the fumbling issues he was having earlier this year. After fumbling ten times in the team’s first 11 games, Flacco has put the ball on the turf just once since Week 11, and not at all since Week 13 in Cleveland. That’s a trend that needs to continue if the Ravens are going to continue to advance towards Indianapolis.

The Texans boast the NFL’s third-ranked passing defense, but based on the fact that Flacco has had success against this and other similar systems (Pittsburgh, Arizona, to name a couple) in the past, I think the Ravens will have some success throwing the ball Sunday. Anquan Boldin will be playing in his first game since Week 15, and Cam Cameron would be wise to get Q the ball early to get him into the flow of the offense. Boldin went off against the Texans in Week 6, catching eight passes for 132 yards. He says he feels as good or better than he has felt all year, so expect Boldin to be a big part of the game plan against Houston. Flacco’s increasing chemistry with tight end Dennis Pitta will be key as well, especially on third downs.

I bring up Joe first, because both teams will likely have the same mindset on defense…

Stopping the Run

Arian Foster (1224 rushing yards, 617 receiving yards, 12 total touchdowns) vs. Ray Rice (1364 rushing yards, 704 receiving yards, 15 total touchdowns) is quite a match up on the ground. However, these two defenses were ranked #2 and #4 against the run during the regular season, so both backs will be hard pressed to find much running room. In the first match up, Rice had the better day, with 161 yards from scrimmage to Foster’s 101. If those numbers repeat themselves, the Ravens should emerge victorious. However, if Houston is to stand a chance, the two runners’ numbers will have to be much more similar to each other this time around. The best way to prevent that on Baltimore’s part is to find a way to make Houston one-dimensional.

The extra week of rest should do the Ravens good, as Ray Lewis and Haloti Ngata, two of the key cogs in the B’More run defense, continue to nurse toe and thigh injuries, respectively, back to health. If Ngata especially can come out of the bye at closer to 100% and more closely resemble the player he was at the beginning of the year, he could make life hell for Foster and fellow running back Ben Tate all afternoon. Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson will be counted on to set the edge against Houston’s zone-blocking scheme, while Ngata, Cory Redding, Terrence Cody and the Ravens’ linebackers will have to be near flawless in gap discipline. Again, they did a great job the first time around – let’s hope they can repeat the performance.

Rice and Foster will be counted on to carry their teams, but with both defenses selling out to stop the opposing backs, this game could very well come down to quarterback play.

In that scenario, I like the aforementioned Flacco over his Houston counterpart.

T.J. Yates

The simple fact is that no rookie quarterback has come into Baltimore and beat the Ravens since way back in 1997 when Jake Plummer and the Cardinals pulled it off. No opposing rookie quarterback has EVER won at M&T Bank Stadium.

But I don’t want to summarily dismiss Houston based on that. Another indisputable fact is that T.J. Yates has a hell of a supporting cast around him. For one, Houston will have All-Universe wide receiver Andre Johnson back on the field. Johnson, who missed the Week 6 match up in Baltimore, torched the Ravens for 140 yards and two touchdowns when these teams met at Reliant Stadium in 2010. Obviously, he had Matt Schaub throwing him the ball in that game and not Yates, but #80 would be a threat with Kyle Boller as his quarterback. Yates and Johnson hooked up for 90 yards and a long score in Wild Card weekend.

The rookie QB out of North Carolina has made six starts and won three of those. His numbers don’t jump off the page at you, as his touchdown last week was his first since Week 14. In fact, Yates hasn’t thrown a touchdown against a team not wearing Bengals jerseys since Week 13, and three of his four career touchdown throws are against Cincinnati. Still, he hasn’t thrown an interception in three straight games, and his 97.7 passer rating last week was his lowest of those three contests.

I had a Texans fan argue with me on Twitter this week, extolling the virtues of Yates as a mobile quarterback – at least compared to Schaub. While he may in fact be a bit better at extending plays than the first-stringer, it isn’t evidenced by one key stat – sacks.

When Matt Schaub was playing this season, he was sacked on just about 5% of his dropbacks. Yates, so far, has been sacked 17 times in 6+ games, or on nearly 11% of his dropbacks. If Terrell Suggs, Pernell McPhee, and company can manage to get to Yates once or twice every 10 times he drops back to pass Sunday, that will add a key ingredient to the Ravens’ recipe for success.

Houston ran the ball on 17 of their 23 first down plays last week – expect them to strive for a similar ratio this week, if they can keep the game close. The key for the Ravens will be getting the Texans off schedule by stuffing the run on first or second down, and forcing Yates to move the chains with his arm. It’s Football 101, but it’s also a formula that has won the Ravens a boatload of games over the years.


Again, all due respect to Houston and everything they’ve accomplished this season. If their run ends Sunday, though, their year will still be considered a resounding success.  The same cannot be said of the Ravens. This home playoff game is what John Harbaugh’s squad has been striving for since he came to town four seasons ago, and I have to believe this team of postseason-tested veterans, playing in their own home, where they were undefeated this year, against a rookie quarterback and a team full of playoff novices, will overwhelm the Texans in the end.

The Ravens are as healthy as they’ve been since Week 1 (no player missed practice on Wednesday or Thursday, and only Jameel McClain and Brendan Ayanbadejo were even limited), when they housed the defending AFC Champion Steelers 35-7. Ben Grubbs, Jimmy Smith, Tom Zbikowski, and others were all absent from the Week 6 win on the Baltimore side. So while the Texans are getting their superstar back, Baltimore counters with some quality talent of their own that wasn’t on the field the last time these teams met. On top of that, Texans’ tight end Owen Daniels broke his hand in last week’s game. While he is expected to play, he will be at less than 100%.

Yates is making just his seventh career start, and he has yet to face anything resembling the madhouse (or, new “World’s Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum“) that will be M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday. The rookie, at this point, would hardly be confused with the caliber of quarterbacks that have dismissed the Ravens from the playoffs the last few years (Ben Roethlisberger twice, Peyton Manning, both of whom went on to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl; Can even the most homerific of Texans fans really expect to see T.J. Yates hoisting the Lamar Hunt Trophy in nine days?)

John Harbaugh teams are 4-0 following a bye week, with an average margin of victory of 18 points (all at home, including the 29-14 win over Houston in Week 6 this year).

Oh, and B’More is on an 18-1 streak at home dating back to the 2009 season.

The deck is just stacked much too high against Houston. This Ravens team feeds off the purple crowd like none before them, and I’m confident they’ll reward us for that infusion of energy with our first home playoff win since the 2000 season.

Ravens 27 Texans 13

GOOBVISION – Ravens/Texans Divisional Playoff Preview

January 11, 2012

The regular season was a blast – both for Goob and for the team – but now the playoffs are here and it’s time for both to really get serious.

Another Ravens Playoff Pump Up Video

January 11, 2012

As we inch toward the Ravens’ Divisional round clash with the Houston Texans, the pump up videos just keep coming. While the last one we posted was a little slower and more subtle, this one is a stark contrast – up-beat and over the top. And of course still extremely effective.

By some local musicians (Matthew Edward, Fresh Competition & Kenny Kilsworth), “Ravens Nation” should only make you that much more anxious for Sunday to get here.

Playoff Video – Comin' Home

January 10, 2012

This video was posted on the Ravens’ home page yesterday, and was an instant hit around Charm City. The music is artist Diddy – Dirty Money featuring vocals from Skylar Grey, and it is set to a montage of highlights and lowlights from the Ravens’ regular season, as well as shots of the city and M&T Bank Stadium. It’s not your typical fast-paced pump up video, but after watching it I’m ready to run through a MF’ing brick wall for this team. If this doesn’t get you pumped for Sunday, check your pulse.

I’m sure most of you have already seen it, but if you haven’t take a look (and even if you have, it’s well worth more than a view or two).

What's Important Now: Making Houston One Dimensional

January 10, 2012

The Houston Texans are no joke, boasting the league’s #2 defense and #2 rushing attack. They ran for 188 yards last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, who were one of the best in the league at stopping opposing running backs in their own right (at least until their final two games). While the Ravens will have a decided home field advantage – including a raucous M&T Bank Stadium bowl full of ravin’ Raven maniacs as well as game time temperatures in the high 30’s against a warm-weather dome team – they will have to slow down Houston’s impressive running attack in order to advance to championship weekend.

It’s a cliche in the NFL – make the other team one-dimensional and you greatly improve your chances of success. It’s a cliche for a reason though: it’s usually true. Unless the opponent boasts one of the league’s great quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Aaron Rodgers (at least one of whom the Ravens are very likely to have to deal with at some point should they hope to hoist the Lombardi Trophy), putting the game squarely on the shoulders of the QB is a proven formula for victory.

When – as in the case of the Houston Texans – the other team comes in with a starting quarterback who is not only a rookie, but who is making just his seventh career start, and his first on the road in a hostile postseason environment, the tried-and-true “make them one dimensional” formula that defensive coordinators espouse constantly seems an even clearer path to success.

That said, there are two ways the Ravens can force the Texans to have to throw the ball. Both are, of course, much easier said than done.

1. Bottle up Arian Foster and Ben Tate

The most obvious way to force the Texans to the air is to stop the run, and to set up third-and-long situations. When these two teams met in Week 6, the Ravens did exactly that, and it went a long way towards the ultimate outcome of a 29-14 win. Arian Foster managed just 49 yards on 15 carries (3.3 ypc), while fellow running back Ben Tate fared only slightly better, picking up 41 on 9 (4.6 ypc). Foster, a Ray Rice-esque dual threat, also managed 52 yards on 6 receptions. While “holding” Foster to over 101 yards from scrimmage doesn’t seem all that impressive, consider that he had nearly 200 last week against the Bengals.

Foster’s running style is a near-perfect fit for Houston’s zone blocking scheme. Mike Mayock of NFL Network stated during the game Saturday that Foster was the best zone runner he has seen in the league since Denver’s Terrell Davis – very high praise. In Week 6, the Ravens played extremely disciplined run defense, setting the edge strongly and maintaining gap integrity in pursuit, not allowing Foster his signature cutback move. The Bengals did exactly the opposite of that, overpursuing and sloppily trying to fill gaps, and you saw what happened – Foster gashed them over and over.

After watching last week’s film, the importance of playing the kind of run stuffing defense they did in Week 6 will be blatantly obvious to Ravens’ defenders.

2. Jump out to an early lead

The other way to force the Texans to throw the ball early and often is to put the ball in the end zone a few times early in the game, and build a double-digit lead.

Again, much easier said than done against the #2 defense.

Still, the Ravens – who aren’t typically known as a fast-out-of-the-gates kind of team, managed double digit halftime leads in four of their final five victories:

Week 13 – at Cleveland – Halftime Score: 10-0

Week 14 – vs. Indy – 17-3

Week 16 – vs. Cleveland – 17-0

Week 17 – vs. Cincinnati – 17-3

If B’More can put up a couple quick scores, it will put Houston in the extremely unenviable position of having to ask rookie T.J. Yates to try to bring them back through the air. That should be a recipe for disaster for the Texans, Andre Johnson or no Andre Johnson.

I’m not going to lie – Arian Foster scares me. At the same time though, I have confidence that a fully rested Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody, Cory Redding, Ray Lewis, Jarret Johnson, Terrell Suggs, Bernard Pollard and company can put the clamps on him just as they did earlier this year, and can take advantage of Yates’ inexperience.

Festivus Video from Some Lady Ravens Fans

January 9, 2012

I saw this video last night while goofing around on twitter (@BMoreBirdsNest). These rabid Raven fan ladies went all out to make a very goofy and entertaining Festivus video that features a girl in a football helmet scaring a cow wearing a Ben Roethlisberger “jersey,” lots of girl-on-girl tackling (WOOO!), and a SPOT ON Joe Flacco impression. I really enjoyed it. Take a few minutes and have a look.

If you liked it, check out the girls on twitter (@jes_heller, @JulieMac32). Jes also wrote a really good piece defending Joe Flacco a few weeks back on her blog (read it here).


January 9, 2012

Of course Goob can’t help but take this opportunity to laugh maniacally over the Pittsburgh Steelers being eliminated in overtime by Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

Wild Card Weekend: Texans Coming to Baltimore, Denver Tebows Steelers

January 8, 2012

The Houston Texans succeeded in defending their home turf Saturday afternoon, winning their first playoff game in franchise history. Running back Arian Foster gashed the Cincinnati defense all day, rookie quarterback T.J. Yates made just enough plays, and fellow rookie defensive tackle J.J. Watt made perhaps the play of the postseason picking off Andy Dalton for a touchdown. The 31-10 Houston win sealed their fate in coming to Baltimore for the Divisional Round next Sunday at 1 P.M.

Had Cincinnati have won, it was widely assumed that it would be the Pittsburgh Steelers coming to B’More for round 3 of the rivalry.

Tim Tebow, though, had other plans.

Nobody gave them much of a chance, but Tebow’s Broncos managed to vanquish Pittsburgh in overtime Sunday night, with a thrilling 29-23 victory.

The Steelers were hobbled, with Ben Roethlisberger still nursing his injured ankle (though he looked fine scrambling around in bringing his team back from a two touchdown deficit to force the extra period), and starting defensive linemen Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel both leaving the game early in the first half. Still, that the 8-8 Broncos were able to overcome them for the victory is just as surprising as the Seattle Seahawks win over New Orleans a year ago.

Many Ravens fans had claimed that they were actually pulling for Pittsburgh on Sunday, due to the implications for a potential AFC Championship game. The thinking being that, Pittsburgh had the best chance of knocking off New England (a much better chance than Denver, anyway), in which case a Ravens victory over Houston would result in the AFC title game being Ravens-Steelers in Baltimore.

While that line of thinking is perfectly logical and defensible, I just couldn’t get behind it.

Sports calls for rooting with your heart, not your head, and I don’t have nearly enough control over my emotions to ever subdue them for three plus hours to allow me to root for the Steelers, even if it is “in my best interest.” I was jumping off my couch when Denver was building their lead, and I had that all-too-familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach as Big Baby Ben was mounting his comeback.

When Tebow sent Pittsburgh home losers on the very first play of overtime, I celebrated like it was Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith providing the heroics.

Now, Denver goes to New England. The Patriots beat the Broncos 41-23 in Denver in Week 15, so they’ll rightfully be double digit favorites entering the game. A Pats win would mean that the Ravens would have to travel to Foxboro if they are able to get by Houston.

But at this point, is anybody really ready to count out Tebow?

The good news is that Pats-Broncos will be next Saturday evening, so the Ravens will know their potential opponent before even kicking off. While they can hardly afford to think about it, Ravens fans making plans for AFC Championship weekend will be able to get a head start on things.

I’m of the opinion that the Ravens can beat the Patriots in Foxboro, should it come to that. While an AFC Championship game in Baltimore would have been incredible, I’m not sure my heart could handle another Pittsburgh-Baltimore match up with that much on the line. With the Steelers out of the way, there will be no black-and-yellow cloud hanging over purple town as the postseason euphoria continues, and I’m personally more than happy about that.

Now, let’s get down to focusing on the task at hand – beating the Houston Texans.

Remembering the Regular Season: Great Memory #9 – Rice Runs to AFC North Title

January 7, 2012

Wrapping up our “Remembering the Regular Season” series is a memory that is yet to turn even a week old. Last Sunday, in week 17, Ray Rice broke touchdown runs of 70 and 51 yards on his way to a 191 yard day that went a long way to helping the Ravens secure their first AFC North division title since 2006. He had 199 total yards from scrimmage on the day, and also cemented his position atop the NFL in that particular statistic.

Joe Flacco was a calm and efficient 15/19 for 130 yards and a touchdown, and Terrell Suggs added to his Defensive Player of the Year application with a crucial forced fumble in the fourth quarter that led directly to Rice’s second long score.

With the win, the Ravens clinched the AFC’s #2 seed, which is the reason we were able to spend some time looking back and enjoying the regular season this week, instead of getting ready for a Wild Card playoff opponent.

While the regular season was a blast, and we had a great time reminiscing about it throughout this week, we all hope the best memories of this season are yet to be forged. The Ravens will take on either the Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, or Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday at 1 P.M., when they will try to run their home record to 9-0 on the year and earn their second AFC Championship Game berth in four seasons.

It’s been a well-deserved bye week for both the team and fans. Now let’s go sit back, relax, watch some playoff games, and find out who the next victim will be.


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